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Fibre broadband making a ‘huge difference’ to Blyth digital skills charity

Monday, July 13th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Fibre broadband has made a “huge difference” to a Northumberland charity that helps unemployed people get back into work, according to its manager.

The Blyth Resource and Initiative Centre (BRIC) gives job seekers the digital skills they need to find work and runs a number of vocational courses that need reliable internet access.

The charity is one of more than 17,500 businesses, organisations and households in Blyth that can now place orders as a result of the iNorthumberland programme as well as BT’s commercial rollout of fibre broadband.

Many have already done so with thousands so far signing up to get superfast speeds.

Cath George, centre manager at BRIC, said fibre broadband had allowed the centre to expand its range of courses.

“We work with a large number of people who are classed as furthest away from the job market. Some of those people have no, or very limited experience of the internet,” she said.

“This lack of digital skills is a massive issue. All unemployed people claiming Jobseekers Allowance are now required to use an online job search site, but with no digital skills even this is virtually impossible and that’s before they even try to apply for a job.

“At BRIC we provide IT-related courses to teach people these vital skills and help them back to work. To do that effectively we need fast and reliable internet and now we have it.”

She said before the centre upgraded to fibre, its connection was “slow and was often not fit for purpose, dropping out regularly throughout the day”, adding that this made it difficult for people trying to complete online assessments.

“Superfast broadband has made a huge difference to the number of people we can support and also expanded the range of courses we can offer.

“This is fantastic for us and for those people who desperately want to learn new skills and get back to work.”

'Flourish and grow'

Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell visited BRIC and was joined by Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, and representatives of iNorthumberland and BT.

Mr Campbell said: “It is superb that the iNorthumberland programme is bringing superfast fibre broadband to services such as these provided by BRIC.

“The team at BRIC do some great work in my constituency in helping people to get into education, training or back to work, and excellent IT is key to the support that they provide.

“Fibre broadband offers huge benefits to community service, to local residents and to businesses and will help our local economy to flourish and grow.”

Cllr Ledger said: “The is another superb example of the benefits of the iNorthumberland programme and of bringing superfast broadband to communities right across the county.”

A contract for the second phase of the iNorthumberland programme was agreed between Northumberland County Council and BT last month.

It will see more than £4.1m invested in the area’s fibre broadband infrastructure and follows an initial £18.9m invested by Northumberland County Council, BT, Broadband Delivery UK and the European Regional Development Fund.

By the end of the two phases more than 149,000 premises within the programme area will have access to fibre broadband.

Simon Roberson, BT’s North East regional partnership director, said: “Superfast broadband is transforming people’s lives and it is vital everyone has the knowledge and skills to reap the benefits.

“Organisations like BRIC are bridging the gap for people who have not had the opportunity to experience all the internet has to offer and it’s great that superfast broadband is helping them to do that more efficiently and effectively.”

Pictured (left to right) are Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell, BRIC centre manager Cath George, Northumberland County Council deputy leader Dave Ledger and iNorthumberland's Kevin Strachan.

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